As the Interviewer: Stages of the Interview

There are so many different ways that companies are conducting interviews these days that it begs the question: Should there be different steps in the interview process?

Some will say the process depends on the size of the company…others will say it depends on the level of the position.  But too many times either a vital step is missed or more steps are added that complicate the process and may end in loosing a candidate or having to re-hire again because a candidate didn’t work out.

Not knowing the best way to approach the interview process is really no one’s fault.  The Art of Interviewing is a topic discussed with Jobseekers but never have I seen it as a topic taught from the Interviewer’s perspective.  Like with any HR or Management position, it is just “assumed” that you will know how to interview because you have achieved those roles in your career.  And this is where I have seen mistakes be made.

You have may a process that works well for you and your company….and congratulations if you do!  But for those that find themselves wondering if it could be better or struggling with always seeming to hire “problem” employees that aren’t discovered until after the fact, here is a breakdown that hopefully will help you.

Stage 1:    The Phone Interview

Duration: Typically no more than 15min

For some people, they think the Phone Interview is a waste of time and go right to bringing the candidate in for an in-person interview.  However, you are missing a key opportunity especially if this is a candidate that will be working on the phone in any capacity with your customers.

The main purpose of conducting a phone interview is to hear the person’s phone etiquette.  Are they quiet and timid or are they hyper and interrupting?  Do they speak clearly?  Do you perceive any attitude when they are answering you that your customers may misinterpret?

Questions are by the Interviewer are typically: questions about the current job that they have, what interested the candidate about your job opening and the “why do you feel you are a fit for this job?”  Based on the impressions over the phone, you decide whether or not to go to Stage 2.

Stage 2:  First In-person Interview with HR

Duration: Typically 30-45min

Here is where many Managers just don’t understand why HR has to get involved to interview.  After all, when it comes to doing the job (especially if it is technical or specialized) how can HR really be a good judge about who would be a “good hire” and who wouldn’t?  The purpose of the “first interview” is not to find your ideal candidate right off the bat, but to serve as a “gatekeeper” to weed out all of those that may not be a good representation of the company or a fit with the company’s culture.

Your HR person is looking for a “personality fit” when they first meet with the candidates:

  • Do they speak clearly?
  • Are they thoughtful when answering questions about their background?
  • Do they show they can think on their feet when asked questions about past problems they have encountered?
  • Are they a personality a fit for the company and how it projects itself to its customers?
  • Would they bit a fit with the other employees?
  • Are they looking for more career-wise than the company is able to offer to where they may become dissatisfied quickly?
  • What are their reasons for gaps, changes in career, leaving previous employers?

They made it past the “check the box” on their resume to get the interview, but now it’s time to see how they answer questions about their experience and aspirations to see if – personality-wise – there is a match with your company.  When HR finds the candidates that they feel fit this requirement, now it’s time to get into their specific skills and experience to see how it relates to the job you are looking to fill.

Stage 3:  Second In-Person Interview with Hiring Manager

Duration: Typically 30-45min

This is where the Manager gets to focus just on the candidate’s background and skills to ask questions to see if they will be able to fill the job you are looking to fill.  Don’t waste your time with some of the typical questions you can find on the Internet such as “Where do you see yourself in 5yrs?”  Remember, that’s the type of questions your HR person has already asked to see if they would have a future with the company.

Make the most of your time by focusing on “if” and “how” this candidate in front of you would be able to:

  • Come up to speed to do the job you are hiring for or will they need more time to train and become accustomed…
  • Are they technically up to par with the skill set you are looking for or, with a little time and training, could you train them up to be the ideal employee…
  • How well do they seem to listen to direction – do they listen to you or interrupt you when asking questions…
  • Do they offer ideas and suggestions based on past experience as answers to the questions you pose…

Let’s face it – you are looking for that employee that can hit the ground running right after their first day, so use this time to uncover if they will be able to work with you (as their manager) and do the job efficiently so you can quickly make a choice on your new hire.

Optional:  Reference Checks

Today’s jobseekers often wonder if companies ever do call on references before hiring them and, in all honesty, many companies don’t…mainly because they don’t think it will get them any insight into a candidate as they are expecting.  So, as a result, jobseekers don’t want to share references in the early stages of interviewing (and they really shouldn’t be required to) and employers aren’t taking the time to do their research.

With social media today, there are so many ways to “reference check” an employee to see if they would be a good hire.  Many candidates will have LinkedIn accounts that allows you to see not just their resume, but more about outside activities such as: volunteer positions and articles published, not to mention how professionally they work to appear online (is their photo professional or questionable?).  Same can be said for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram….anything that is set to “public” that you can see – your customers and clients will be able to see to.

But don’t discount the phone inquiry!  Yes, there are companies staying away from offering reference checks because of implied legal retaliation, but some are still willing to share especially if it was a great employee that they were sorry to see go.  Just stay away from family and friends as references.  Even students can offer teachers as references that will give you more of a peek into their personality and ethics.  And don’t pressure an employee to give you a reference from their current employer unless you have already extended a job offer.  Ask for past supervisors and even subordinates. 

You will already have an idea if you want to hire the person or not before you make the call so keep the conversation on how well they carried out their job, how they got along with others, did they have ideas to bring to the table, etc.

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Where Have All The Good Hires Gone?

The days of posting an ad on the various job boards and receiving hundreds of resumes is long gone.  And if that is how you are still trying to find your next employee, then here is some insight into why it is taking so much longer for you to fill a position than even 5 years ago.

Today’s job search is all about “networking.”

While HR technology, such as Applicant Tracking Systems software (“ATS”), has been a great way for companies sort through resumes received based on qualifications and build a database of future possible candidates, it is not as welcoming to today’s jobseeker.  In fact, the frustration that having to apply for a job that uses an ATS has caused most jobseekers to seek ways to “get around the system”…and that has led to them taking a more direct approach at trying to find their next job.

Some jobseekers will cite the reason being many companies’ ATS requires too many questions to be answered that are already available on their resume being submitted that will be scanned and purged into the database anyway.  Others have concern that the filtering methods put in place with an ATS will result in them being “passed over” for consideration of a job that they would otherwise be deemed qualified.

The result: Jobseekers have put more of their focus on networking. They have joined industry organizations, networking groups, LinkedIn groups, Twitter “chats”…any way they can possible meet Hiring Managers, Recruiters or just Influencers in their field to help uncover potential openings or get them directly in front of the person trying to fill an open job.

What should companies do to find today’s top candidates?

Simply put – You need to go to where the candidates are and not just wait for them to come to you.

– Join in on Twitter or LinkedIn “chats” in your industry.  See who joins in and what they offer to the conversation…and connect with them.

– Attend industry “networking” events that jobseekers are going to and mingle with them.  It’s the easiest way to get some “first interviews” with potential candidates.  Some may not be actively looking for a job, but most will be open to hearing about new opportunities.

– Make sure your company is profiled on LinkedIn and create “groups” that people can join.  You may even find some of your alumni may join and could be open to coming back.

– Get your company involved in community events.  Many of today’s jobseekers support various causes and put an emphasis on volunteering.  They are looking for companies that embrace the same values they have, which will make your company someplace they will want to work.

Those top candidates are still out there.  Meet them halfway…before another company does.

Onboarding New Employees: Doesn’t Stop Their First Day of Work

After weeks or months are trying to find the “perfect candidate,” you finally hired that new employee!  On Day 1: they came in, did their paperwork and you whisked them off to their new department to become familiar with their new position and new employees.

Your job is done, right?  Sure, if all you wanted to do was fill a position.

But, don’t you want to keep this new employee past their 90 days – 6 months – even their 1st year anniversary?  Then you have to make a plan to follow up with that new employee directly from time to time during those first 6 months.

Cold Reality

Regardless of how experienced or knowledgeable your new employee is, there is still a “hesitation”…or let’s flat out call it a “fear”…that comes with starting a new venture.  New people to meet, get to know and build relationships with.  New systems to learn because, let’s face it, even if each company uses the same software program (that you made sure they had experience with during the interview process) there will still be little “tweaks” or processes that your company will use that their last company may not have.

For most, the first 30 days on the job is not just learning the job – but learning how the company wants you to do your job.

If you rely on only asking their new Supervisor how things are working out, you are only getting half of the story – or only what they want you to know.  Personality conflicts are the biggest issue that comes up during that initial 30 days.  The employee comes in trying to fit in and make an impression…but how that comes across to their co-workers and supervisor may not be the same.  Then, you also have the reality that the Supervisor will also be “making an impression” so the new employee understands they are in charge…and not all supervisors know how to integrate a new employee into their department, especially if they have always had the same crew or are relatively new to the role themselves.

Benefits of Checking In

Whenever you hire a new employee, there has been a huge cost attached to the process. Its more than just the money you paid to “run an ad” or hire an outside recruiter.  Keep in mind the time HR and the Hiring Manager(s) spent interviewing candidates, on-boarding the new hire with all their paperwork (usually takes a couple of hours that you are paying them for but not having them produce anything for the company), conducting any training that’s needed both on Day 1 and ongoing (if the Hiring Manager or other employees are involved in the training, take into account the cost of taking them away from their daily duties to complete the training), and of course the cost of the benefit package itself that you offer.  Every company will have their own “cost calculation” for every new hire, but a good target figure is about 30% of the employee’s annual salary – to be conservative.

New employees are typically hired to fulfill two needs: 1) fill a position that has been vacant and considered critical, and 2) bring a fresh perspective with new ideas to help grow or expand the company in the long run.  Let’s face it: a second set of eyes on any project is always beneficial to see the potential possibilities – good or bad – and even better when its from someone who isn’t set in the same routine to approach things from the same angle.  But, until that trust is established between the new employee and his new supervisor, that free exchange of ideas probably won’t happen.  By sitting down with your new employee within their first 30 days to just “check in,” you are helping them find that comfort zone to share their ideas and feedback.  Wait too long after their are hired, especially if they are feeling a bit uneasy about fitting in, and you run the risk of them deciding not to share anything and just carry out their job.

How To Follow Up With New Employees
There is no long, drawn out, “formal” process that you have to use so don’t make it harder than it needs to be!  Best way to follow up is to just simply make some time to talk to them.

If you are looking for a process so as to not ruffle feathers, consider this:

1) Schedule a meeting or phone call with the Supervisor to do a “check in” of how the employee is doing so far.  This is your chance to get their point of view before approaching the new employee and also finding out if there are any ideas that you can help correct by proposing a “plan of improvement” before the performance continues to decline or the Supervisor later tells you “they aren’t working out.”

2) Have an “informal meeting” with the employee.  Try to avoid having an actual scheduled, sit-down meeting with the new employee so that it doesn’t come across as some sort of corrective action.  Simply, stop by their department and ask them “how’s it going?”  From there, if questions, concerns or issues are brought up, you can opt to move to a more private area or suggest coming to your office to discuss further.  Even if the Supervisor has indicated that there is already a performance issue to address, start out with an informal discussion.  Remember: if the employee feels they are under the microscope or going to be reprimanded, their defenses go up.  You want to establish that open discussion first so they are comfortable to share before moving it into anything more serious.

3) Schedule a formal review for the new employee with HR and the Supervisor present and do this before the first 30 days is up.  Why? Because most habits only take 20-30 days to firm up so any bad habits you want to get on the table and talk about right away.  But keep in mind – even bad habits may not be intentional.  Remember to approach the new employee (and any employee for that matter) from the viewpoint of “informing” them of the habit, not automatically reprimanding them.  They may not realize what they are doing or how it is coming across.  It also helps the Supervisor to come to a position of “counseling” the employee rather than scolding so that they continue to build a relationship of honesty and trust with the employee.

4) Keep in touch with the employee periodically during the next 6 months.  Even if your company doesn’t have a formal performance review process in place or only does it once a year, make it a habit of just taking a day to “walk the department” and talk to the employees.  This lets your employees know that your “door is always open” and that you welcome feedback and discussions that will help make their jobs easier to carry out.  Its that “Open Door Policy” that everyone talks about but very few take the extra steps to make sure the employees know you mean it.

Your basic goal in hiring any new employee is to make sure that they make it to their first full year with the company.  Retaining an employee after their first year is much easier than during the first year, so a little extra TLC is required.  But its that extra TLC that will go a long way to retaining those top candidates you attracted to the company and creating a culture that will more easily attract new candidates in the future.

Remember word of mouth! That new employee will tell his/her friends, who will tell their friends, and so on and so on…

If Its On the Internet, It Must Be True!

search_internetHow quick are we to believe what we read and find on the Internet!

Remember the State Farm Insurance commercials promoting their mobile app where the girl tells her friend “If it on the Internet, it must be true.” We laugh and roll our eyes at the stupidity of the comment…yet, so many people pass judgment or make assumptions based on what they see on the Internet.

I recently had a friend go through a personal ordeal because of information uncovered by another person on the Internet. This person, for whatever reason, had “Googled” my friend’s name and found questionable information…and then proceeded to make assumptions based on this information to degrade my friend’s character. No one further investigated the information or even asked him for an explanation to determine whether or not it was true and/or what were the circumstances. Instead, a lynch mob ensued, orchestrated by this person who played to the fears and emotions of others. Had an explanation been sought before taking action, the truth surrounding the information found on the Internet would have been revealed…and not been as bad as it was made out to be. Instead, my friend was ousted from this group because the situation had escalated beyond any chance of resolution and the person who spread this information was allowed to go home and gloat in the glory of his success.

Ridiculous, right? Upset? I was too.

And while I’m sure not many of us would have gone to the extreme that this person did, how many of us will admit that we too have jumped to conclusions based on the tidbit of information we see? Or worse – choose not to interview an applicant because they have checked that box on their application that “have been convicted of a crime.”

As a Hiring Manager, it is important to protect the integrity of the company as well as its employees. If an actual background check is not included as part of the pre-hire procedure, its not uncommon for many to resort to “Googling” a person’s name to see what public information comes up.

Should we take that information as gospel? Not unless you think like the girl in the State Farm commercial!

Just like with any other situation, we must get the full facts – from both sides if available – before we jump to conclusions, make assumptions or pass judgment whether it be verbal accusations or Internet findings. So, how to you handle it without worrying about any legal backlash? Use it as a talking point to gather information – and remember not ask in the tone of making an accusation.

For example: I had an applicant that noted that he had been arrested for armed robbery. He showed up wearing a suit to personally turn in his application so I decided to ask him if he wanted to expand on why he answered the question with a “yes.” He admitted that he had been arrested but stated that he was young and it was a case of being in the “wrong place at the wrong time” – he didn’t know at the time, but he had gotten in a car with a friend that had just committed the robbery when the police pulled him over and was considered guilty by association. Ten years later, he had kept a clean record, finished school and had different volunteer groups he had become a part of. His previous employer had gone out of business with the market, so was just looking a full-time job with a career path. I was impressed…so was the manager…so we gave him a chance. (Yes, he worked out…and eventually moved into an Assistant Manager position!)

We are bombarded with images and news of crime on a daily basis that it makes it easy for us to jump to quick conclusions without the benefit of the doubt….and this is all perpetuated by fear. Fear is the “evil you” sitting on your one shoulder always trying to drown out the “good you.” Will you let Fear win? Or will you question before making a decision?

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

Top Signs You Should Think Twice About Hiring An Applicant

flag_pin_angled_400_clr_9655You were impressed with their resume.

You conducted the phone interview.

You were equally impressed with them during an in-person interview.

Could they be the perfect candidate?

Aside from the typical background checks HR professional do these days: reference checks, Google searches, LinkedIn/Twitter/Facebook searches, criminal background checks…are there other signs that can point to a problematic employee before you spend all your time researching them?

Don’t loose sight of the importance of the traditional “Application for Employment.”

Candidates will typically stretch the truth on their resumes with the expectation that it will be the only document the potential employer will use in evaluating them. Remember: resumes are not always complete or clear. Last thing an employer wants to deal with is having to terminate an employee after-the-fact and risking a lawsuit.

So how can the Application for Employment serve as a measurement of an applicant’s candidacy?

1) Beware the applicant that doesn’t sign the employment application. Most companies use the same standard line on the application near the signature block – “all information is truthful and accurate to the best of my knowledge.” Not signing is less of an omission and more a sign that the candidate is purposefully not signing the application for fear that it would be used against them later when its discovered that the information they provided was false.

2) The applicant does not sign the consent for a background screening. Most online resume submissions are programmed to not allow a candidate to advance to the submission stage without agreeing to a background check, but if you are having them complete the application in person – pay attention to this box. Employers who do not enforce this, especially small businesses, run the risk of being labeled the “preferred employer” for those with past actions to hide because they know the employer doesn’t really perform this step.

3) An applicant fails to explain gaps in employment. In today’s market, many applicants are afraid or ashamed to report that they were laid off for fear that they will be judged by that. If this is the case, it can be gauged during an interview by simply asking the applicant about the gaps. However, another reason for tracking gaps in employment is for criminal background checks. Contrary to popular belief (or what you see on TV), there isn’t a national database for criminal records. These have to be run separately by state.

4) The applicant fails to give sufficient information on past employers for reference checks. While many applicants won’t keep track of phone numbers for HR to call, location and supervisor’s name is usually enough to track down a phone number or email address. Don’t bypass a past employer because you don’t have enough information to contact them. Many applicants will not give enough information because they don’t want you to contact their previous employer – which means there may be valuable insight you are missing. Beware especially when an applicant states they can’t remember their previous supervisor’s name. I can still remember my first manager’s name when I started working at 17 and I’m sure you can too! Past employment reference checks may only yield title and dates of employment, but the applicant doesn’t know that.

5) The applicant fails to give a reason for leaving a past job. That’s usually a red flag that they were terminated or asked to resign due to some performance issue. While this can be addressed during the interview, the omission should put you on alert to watch for how the applicant answers when asked in person. Do they fidget? Do they look like they are struggling to come up with an answer? Do they simply say “it was just time for me to move on?” All are reasons to be skeptical.

6) Simple as it sounds – lots of cross-outs and changes on the resume. That could be a sign that they are making things up as they go along and trying to cover up real reasons/information with what you will want to read.

While technology has greatly improved the recruiting process, making it easier for candidates to apply and recruiter s to screen, don’t loose sight of the “old school” tactics that can protect your company from future liability.

Some practices should never be replaced.

#HRHorrorStories – Day 5 – And The Award Goes To….

Head in HandsIf you have been following the #HRHorrorStories that were shared on #DTHR last week, you were probably thinking “yep, I’ve had that happen to me” or “I’ve had a similar experience.” Those of us that have been in the field for a while think that we’ve heard it all!

Well, get ready cause I’m willing to bet you never had this one happen to you! So, sit down, get comfortable, grab your coffee and drink it first before you read on…this may make you fall off your chair or spit your coffee out.

There were two stories shared – one that opened a lot of discussion about best practices and one that left us all speechless….and in my opinion wins the award for Best HR Horror Story EVER!

The first story was about an HR Manager finding out from another employee who had been surfing the Internet one day that a current employee of the company had been listed on the State’s Sexual Offender list. Of course, we know not to always believe everything that we read on the Internet, so the HR Manager did their due diligence and verified with the State Agency that is was in fact true. Once the employee was questioned, he admitted to the conviction and knowing that he was on the list but had indicated on his job application that he had no past convictions and was terminated that day for lying on his application.

Many companies do like to do background checks prior to hiring – sometimes its as simple as a reference check, sometimes its more involved such as a criminal or financial background check (although I personally think unless you are applying for a financial position, the company is over doing it but demanding a financial background check) and some companies will do a brief Internet check. This is a big reason why we advise jobseekers at any level to “Google yourself” and see what information comes up on the Internet about you including pictures. We do advise jobseekers to also be aware of what they post on Social Media as that may be seem by potential employers as well but not sure many companies actually take the time to check those before hiring.

The example provided also brought up the fact that many states have “Ban the Box” practices now that prevent employers from including questions about your background on the job application. This does make it harder to uncover such situations…but also begs the question: how in-depth of a background do you think your future employee needs? Does it really matter what they have done in the past when they are trying to make a change in their life? If they admit their past mistakes to you, will you hold it against them or praise them for their honesty?

Let me give you some food for thought: An employee with a past conviction for a DUI applies to your company for a position that will not involve him operating machinery or driving a vehicle. Should it matter that he has a DUI conviction? Will you question every time he is late or sick as alcohol-related instead of believing the reasons he tells you? Will it make you view him differently regardless of whether or not he does a good job? See what I mean…there isn’t a perfect answer but its something that every company needs to look at individually to decide.

Now….here’s the award-winning story!

As part of a company’s standard policy, all employees needed to go through a pre-employment physical. In this case, the new employees were allowed to start work immediately pending the results of the drug screen. (Rapid panels drug tests can provide you with immediate results, however proper testing and recording can take up to 24hrs for negative test and 72hrs for positive ones.) Well, this employee failed his drug screen. He was brought it, told of his test results and terminated.

A couple of days later – this ex-employee called HR and asked for a copy of his failed drug test. When HR asked why he wanted it, he said it was because he had bought a Drug Masking kit to guarantee that he would pass so he needed the results in order to go back to the store to ask for a refund on the kit! Of course, the company opted not to provide him with a copy. What the employee also didn’t realize is that many drug tests today are setup to look for those masking agents that have become so popular.

While many employees will try anything to pass a drug screen, companies requiring one as a condition of employment really should wait until the test results have been received before starting them. This saves you time and money spent on getting all their paperwork together and added into your payroll system. It also prevents any case of unemployment to be filed against you – even though they will not have had enough time to make you a chargeable employer, they can still list you as a previous employer if you had already let them start before finding out they failed the drug screen.

There you have it!

For anyone who ever thought that HR was just filling out paperwork and doing payroll, I hope you enjoyed reading all the situations and trials that HR professionals encounter on a daily basis. Yes, most of the stories shared are more common than you think….its just that you must have a great HR person on staff to handle these things so that you never had to know what happens behind the door to the HR office…

#HRHorrorStories Day 3 – Extra Pay & Bad-Mouthing Co-Workers

water_cooler_chat-e129234989560211Continuing the series of #HRHorrorStories on #DTHR, we talked more about some of those common everyday mistakes employees – and managers – can make that can cause real headaches!

We have all had that dream….and even joked with the Payroll Manager about doing it…of finding those mistaken “extra zeroes” at the end of your paycheck. Even in today’s automated world where you think such mistakes can’t happen…they do. It is a Payroll and HR headache when a paycheck mistake is made and needs to be corrected. But what it worse is if the employee knows a mistake was made and not only doesn’t say anything about it but goes ahead and spends the extra money anyway!

Even without needing glasses….you are going to know if you normally get a $340 a week paycheck that a mistake has been made if your paycheck suddenly says $34,000! It today’s horror story – that mistake was made and the employee went out and spent all the money before the company found out. When questioned, he even admitted he knew it was a mistake but figured he would wait to see if the company noticed and came back to him to collect it!

The employee was fired and some of the money was able to be recouped by the company, but it begs the bigger question: What has happened to morals in the workplace when an employee justifies stealing as the “company’s mistake”? Is this the sign of an unhappy work environment? A company can put all kinds of “checks and double-checks” in place to review payroll to catch such mistakes ahead of time, but some errors will still occur – especially when processing larger number of employees – so may be a good idea to look around at your own workplace at your employees and see if you notice any performance “red flags” that may cause them to keep quiet on mistakes like this one.

Our next horror story is one that many #jobseekers actually are concerned about when going for interviews. A Hiring Manager held a 90min interview with a candidate….and not only thought he was a different person applying for a totally different position, but started calling the candidate by the wrong name during the interview! Its embarrassing to the Interviewer but also frustrating to the Interviewee who now feels his/her time was wasted and their candidacy not being taken seriously. And that leaves them with a negative impression of the company.

An interview should be set up and tracked like any other appointment. And Hiring Managers need to be taught that “interviews” should not be viewed as simple “meet-n-greets” where you are only focusing on whether or not there is a match in personality. Yes, Recruiters and HR Managers usually put the candidate through the “grilling” process of uncovering their skills and qualifications in the initial interview but follow-up (or second interviews) should be conducted with the same level of attention and detail. Keep your yourself organized by printing out and bringing with you – to have in front of you – the resume of the person you are interviewing regardless of whether or not you have prepped for it.

Our final horror story is one that many new employees make when just trying to fit in and be accepted by their new fellow employees and supervisors. When asked what you think about another employee, refrain from speaking ill of them is always a good business practice as well as personal code of conduct. You never know if you may end up finding out that the person asking is related to or married to that employee!

The “Perfect” Candidate Doesn’t Exist So…Stop Looking!

convince-employers-perfect-candidateIt happens each and every time…

A manager needs to replace an employee that left or wants to find “new talent” and they dream up what they envision as the perfect employee.  They begin to write a whole long list, not of duties, but of “needed” experience and qualifications for their next hire.  They submit their “wish list” to Human Resources to start recruiting this person and stress that candidates MUST have these specific qualifications in order to even be considered.

HR knows that the specific qualifications or experience they are demanding are going to be difficult to find so they try to convince the manager to look at candidates that have some, but can be trained to learn the rest.  The manager insists that the perfect candidate does exist out there and sticks to their demands.

Weeks go by and little to no candidates are uncovered that have all of these qualifications.  The manager blames the recruiting method for why those perfect candidates aren’t applying to their company…“They are out there, you just aren’t advertising in the right places.”  So instead of re-visiting the expectations of the candidates they are willing to talk to, the manager starts giving “ideas” of how HR should be trying to find these candidates.

Truth is – to find the “perfect candidate” is literally a needle in the haystack.

And there is no guarantee that even with the qualifications and experience a manager expects that they will be able to transfer that into this new role.  What the manager is wanting is a “plug and play” employee that they don’t have to spend time bringing up to speed when they are hired or have to train.  What they are really doing is potentially shooting themselves in the foot!

You have a completely different pool of candidates these days.

Gone are the days where employees focused on just one job and stayed at a company for decades.  Today, it is expected that employees will not only change jobs but even careers at least 3-4 times in their lifetime.  They are more open and eager to learn new skills to add to their personal toolbox.  And they are more successful in transferring those skills into new positions because of their creativity, problem-solving skills and desire to learn more than just what is needed.  Many candidates come into job interviews wanting to know what training opportunities exist with the company, will the company support them (financially as well) in improving the skills they already have for their assigned job and will the company allow them to cross-train with other departments.  They are gauging their future happiness and success with a company based on this not just salary anymore.

7 out of 10 approach

What jobseekers are being told is that after reviewing the company’s job posting if you have at least 70% of the requirements they are looking for, go ahead and apply.  Anything less than that and your resume won’t be considered.

The same should be applied to the employer side.  If the candidate has the main requirements you are looking for, bring them in for an interview and see if they are transferable and if they can be a quick learner for those things they don’t have.

”But then we have to train them and we don’t have the time.  I need someone just ready to go.”

How many times I have heard a manager say this only to watch them become disenchanted with their view of the “perfect employee” when that employee is still “stuck in their old ways” and wanting to do things their way because they feel its better rather than the way the manager wants it done.  This is an even better example of why you don’t want to limit yourself to a candidate that meets all your requirements.  It takes time and effort to fully integrate any new employee into an organization so looking for the perfect candidate so they can simply just “go to work” removes that aspect from the equation – the manager doesn’t take the time to get them acclimated or lay down the requirements and expectations in the new role.

By giving a candidate with most of the requirements the manager is looking for a chance at the job, the company has the opportunity to mold that employee into the perfect employee that they REALLY do want – both skills and culture-wise.  You never know what additional skills or ideas this type of candidate may bring to the table as well.

Time to revisit your recruiting strategy and expand the possible candidate base…you may be surprised at what you uncover.

New Year = Time to Revisit Your Recruiting Strategy

action-planRemember the days when you needed to fill a position and all you had to do was post a job ad?
You would sit back and wait as hundreds of resumes came flying in.
All you had to do was sift through all of them looking for those few top quality candidates to begin a conversation with.

Those days are certainly over!

Similar to the Real Estate market, the Recruiting market goes through changes depending on current conditions.  From 2008 until the start of 2013, it was very much an Employer’s Market – meaning, there were more candidates seeking jobs than their were jobs to fill.  What we started to see in 2014 is that this shifted to a Candidate’s market.

Candidates have learned a lot of lessons from the recent recession…but companies are still practicing the same recruiting methods. Resumes are not coming in like they used to.  Where one job posting might net about 100 resumes a day, now most are lucky if they are netting 10-20 a week!

So what has changed?  Candidates have been getting advice during their job search, researching companies more closely and not jumping at every opportunity presented to them because now they have their own “criteria” for what is acceptable as their next job.

36% of all jobseekers last year were Millenials – candidates born between 1980-1994, most of which have recently graduated college.  For these jobseekers, a position that provides career growth is what attracts them…not just landing a job.  They are the candidates less interested in the bottom line salary and more interested in their personal growth through company benefits that allow them to achieve that.

But Millenials aren’t the only ones that have changed their job search approach.  Even the most seasoned jobseeker or executive has realized that a title and a paycheck don’t carry the weight in their lives that it once did.  For many of these jobseekers, its all about work-life balance now.  And, thanks to Social Media, they are also concerned about their personal reputation based on what company they associate themselves with.

What are jobseekers today being taught?

1) Research employers before applying to a job.  What is the financial standing of the company? What is there culture like? What benefits and perks does the company offer? Is the company active in the community?

2) Create a “wish list” for your next job.  Jobseekers are taught to sit down and write out exactly what they want in their “ideal” job – position, title, location, salary, benefits, size of company, type of office culture, etc.  They then use this wish list in the same manner that companies use when narrowing down candidates – if you don’t fulfill the majority of their criteria, they move on.

3) Network.  Networking for jobseekers is not only to build relationships with potential employers but also to do research on a company.  They will reach out to previous employees to ask what the company was like.  They will contact the person who used to hold the position to find out the real reason why they left.  They also use networking to help uncover the “non-public” positions so they can connect direct with the Hiring Manager.  They have been told that some companies will post job positions just to “see” what is out in the market without actually having a position open, so they turn to networking to check validity of job openings.

Why haven’t companies changed their recruiting strategy?

In some cases, its simply a matter of not knowing what to try differently.  Many managers still believe that was has worked in the past will still work simply because people need jobs.  They don’t focus on selling the company to the candidate.  “Employer Branding” is only something the big multi-million dollar companies do.

According to a 2011 US Census study, there are 16,455,191 employer-firms (meaning, those that employees on payroll) but only 17,671 were companies with 501+ employees.  99% of companies in the marketplace have less than 500 employees that are all vying for the same talent!  While companies may think that means more jobseekers in the market, the truth is many have gone on to pursue their passion and start their own companies.    There are 3,532,058 firms with 0-4 employees listed.

What have companies tried in the past?

When Social Media began to gain steam, many companies tried jumping on the train but not many really knew what they were doing.  That led to the creation of Social Media Managers in many companies as these individuals, many in their 20s and 30s, used their creative marketing to help “brand” a company.  Many recruiters and HR managers also jumped on to create job-focused accounts in attempts to reach candidates using Twitter and Facebook.  But what many failed to realize is that use of Social Media isn’t about just advertising – its about building relationships with other users.  So while some had success, many others didn’t and hence gave up.

The introduction of the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) was another approach many companies turned to as an easier way to categorize applicants and weed out those that weren’t qualified.  Using an ATS can do just that, if you have it set up properly and don’t have it so complicated that jobseekers pass on applying because of it.  While many have tried to advise and warn companies about this, many haven’t changed anything because they still believe “if the candidate wants the job, they will do it.”

Most companies still rely on the “post and wait” approach to recruiting.  They just believe that candidates aren’t looking at the more popular job boards like Careerbuilder and Monster so they started expanding into LinkedIn, Bullhorn and others.  Yes, jobseekers most definitely still use all those job boards in their research, but they aren’t just blindly applying anymore so while a company may see a small uptick in applicants, it still isn’t the number they were expecting.

So how should you change your recruiting strategy for 2015?

Start by figuring out what kind of candidates you want to attract to your company.  Too many times, we recruit to find a fit for the position.  Focus on finding the “fit” for the company…that is how you will be able to foster new ideas from your employees and extent tenure.  Candidates that may have the background and experience to carry out the position but if they aren’t happy working for you, they will be back on the job hunt.

For example, some companies are recognizing that by 2022, 46% of those jobseekers in the market will be Millenials…and are looking for ways now to attract them to their company.  What that means is that these companies also have to stop and take a look at themselves – their makeup, what they offer, what they need to offer, etc.  Sometimes, you won’t have to do much but slight tweeks to your offerings package….sometimes, its an awakening that you need a major overhaul!

Talk to your current employees.  Just because they work for you doesn’t mean they can’t offer you new insight.  Find out from your top performers what they like about their jobs, what they don’t like and what ideas they would like to see put into action. A happy work environment is contagious.  Candidates will pick up on that when interviewing and your employees will talk about your company in a positive light to others who may be in the market for a new job.

Centralize your recruiting.  Are you letting each manager hire their own person? Keep in mind – your managers are focused on “filling a role” not finding a fit.  If you don’t have an in-house recruiter, let your HR person handle this.  For smaller companies that don’t have an HR person, your Office Manager is usually the next best choice.  When you are trying to find a fit for the company, its best to have someone with a “outside” point-of-view from the department so they can focus on looking at the whole picture and not just whether or not they fit the job itself.  After the candidates have been narrowed down by fit, then bring your manager in to see if they are a fit for the role.

Finally….How are your going to market your open positions?  Yes, market – not just post.  Don’t dismiss the job boards, but you need to also incorporate other methods to reach those jobseekers you really want.  This is where having an HR person on staff really comes into play.  Remember, candidates today are doing more research into companies and looking to develop relationships.  Sponsor your HR person to attend local networking events, encourage them join in on Twitter and LinkedIn group discussions as a representative of your company, allow them paid time off to volunteering at jobseeker events at local colleges such as resume writing workshops and mock interviews…the point is to let them act as your Employment Marketing Specialist.  Jobseekers will be more drawn to companies that are active in their circles than ones that sit back and wait for you to apply based on their “market reputation” or because they just need a job.

Don’t wait until you need to start recruiting your next employee – start the New Year with a new plan in place.  Taking the steps to brand the employee-side of your company will help you when it comes time to fill that role with the best candidate.  You never know, they may be watching you and waiting in the wings for when you start looking for them.

Top Signs You Should Think Twice About Hiring An Applicant

red-flags-244x300You were impressed with their resume.

You conducted the phone interview.

You were equally impressed with them during an in-person interview.

Could they be the perfect candidate?

Aside from the typical background checks HR professional do these days: reference checks, Google searches, LinkedIn/Twitter/Facebook searches, criminal background checks…are there other signs that can point to a problematic employee before you spend all your time researching them?

Don’t loose sight of the importance of the traditional “Application for Employment.”  Candidates will typically stretch the truth on their resumes with the expectation that it will be the only document the potential employer will use in evaluating them.  Remember: resumes are not always complete or clear.  Last thing an employer wants to deal with is having to terminate an employee after-the-fact and risking a lawsuit.

So how can the Application for Employment serve as a measurement of an applicant’s candidacy?

1)      Beware the applicant that doesn’t sign the employment application.  Most companies use the same standard line on the application near the signature block – “all information is truthful and accurate to the best of my knowledge.”  Not signing is less of an omission and more a sign that the candidate is purposefully not signing the application for fear that it would be used against them later when its discovered that the information they provided was false.

2)      The applicant does not sign the consent for a background screening.  Most online resume submissions are programmed to not allow a candidate to advance to the submission stage without agreeing to a background check, but if you are having them complete the application in person – pay attention to this box.  Employers who do not enforce this, especially small businesses, run the risk of being labeled the “preferred employer” for those with past actions to hide because they know the employer doesn’t really perform this step.

3)      An applicant fails to explain gaps in employment.  In today’s market, many applicants are afraid or ashamed to report that they were laid off for fear that they will be judged by that.  If this is the case, it can be gauged during an interview by simply asking the applicant about the gaps.  However, another reason for tracking gaps in employment is for criminal background checks.  Contrary to popular belief (or what you see on TV), there isn’t a national database for criminal records.  These have to be run separately by state.

4)      The applicant fails to give sufficient information on past employers for reference checks.  While many applicants won’t keep track of phone numbers for HR to call, location and supervisor’s name is usually enough to track down a phone number or email address.  Don’t bypass a past employer because you don’t have enough information to contact them.  Many applicants will not give enough information because they don’t want you to contact their previous employer – which means there may be valuable insight you are missing.  Beware especially when an applicant states they can’t remember their previous supervisor’s name.  I can still remember my first manager’s name when I started working at 17 and I’m sure you can too!  Past employment reference checks may only yield title and dates of employment, but the applicant doesn’t know that.

5)      The applicant fails to give a reason for leaving a past job.  That’s usually a red flag that they were terminated or asked to resign due to some performance issue.  While this can be addressed during the interview, the omission should put you on alert to watch for how the applicant answers when asked in person.  Do they fidget?  Do they look like they are struggling to come up with an answer? Do they simply say “it was just time for me to move on?”  All are reasons to be skeptical.

6)      Simple as it sounds – lots of cross-outs and changes on the resume.  That could be a sign that they are making things up as they go along and trying to cover up real reasons/information with what you will want to read.

While technology has greatly improved the recruiting process, making it easier for candidates to apply and recruiter s to screen, don’t loose sight of the “old school” tactics that can protect your company from future liability.

Some practices should never be replaced.